SUPER-FAST broadband is set to be introduced across the whole Island — including rural areas — following a £15million investment.
The Isle of Wight Council cabinet last night (Tuesday) announced plans to invest £3million in the technology, which will be topped up by government match funding and support from the private sector.
It follows a commitment by BT to install super-fast broadband in the commercially viable areas of Newport, Ryde and Cowes, as previously reported.
Economy cabinet member Cllr George Brown said: "BT’s massive investment is very good news but would not provide the total solution as it would not bring super-fast broadband to some of the Island’s significant towns, nor its rural areas. What we are proposing will mean that, rather than having a two-speed Island, we will have super-fast broadband available to everyone, wherever they live or work."In what are very difficult economic times we have made some difficult decisions in order to allow us to invest in our priority areas. One such area is the economy and this investment is a statement of that intent and one that will bring tangible benefit to the Island’s businesses and residents." The news was welcomed by Island business leaders.
Norman Arnold, from the Isle of Wight branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, which represents around 1,000 businesses, said: "We would welcome the roll out of super-fast broadband across the Island with open arms. It will provide a real competitive advantage to most Island business, whether in manufacturing, hospitality, retail or the service sectors.
"We have some of the country's best small and specialist enterprises here on the Island. Many are at a disadvantage because of The Solent, many more because of the slow speed of communications and lack of bandwidth. All we need is an even playing field and we can compete with anybody. This investment will help us greatly in that respect."
Chief executive of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Smith, said the plan is superb news for the Island, for business and for the future of the local economy.
If the investment is approved as part of the council’s budget setting process, it is anticipated installation work could begin in the first half of 2013. It would dovetail with work to improve the roads network, under the Highways PFI.
In order to secure the government match funding, the council will need to demonstrate Island residents and businesses support the scheme. Further details of how people can show their support will be announced in the new year.